US trains Trinidad Customs and Excise officers

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said on Friday that, for the first time ever, officers from its Air and Marine Operations (AMO) have conducted a maritime enforcement training for Trinidad and Tobago Customs and Excise (TTCE) officers.

CBP said a decade has passed since TTCE officers “received any formal marine training from the United States.”

“The two nations determined that a joint interagency training was necessary to enhance the capability to interdict, stop, and arrest those that are smuggling a wide variety of illegal importations into Trinidad,” said CBP in a statement. “Both agencies have similar missions in the maritime domain.

“With AMO serving as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement, the instruction focused on some of the best practices and lessons learned from detection, interception, interdiction and boardings,” it added.

CBP said four specialized Marine Interdiction Agents from various locations throughout the United States provided the training to give a better understanding of tactics and authority.

“The Maritime Capacity Building Initiative for Trinidad involved sound training principles, which resulted in their increased vigilance and domain awareness,” said lead instructor Alex Rodriguez, Marine Interdiction Agent with AMO. “They now have some new tactics in their fight to better protect their maritime border.

“The Customs and Excise officers of the Marine Interdiction Unit demonstrated professionalism, motivation and an esprit de corps only found in tightly knit units,” he added. “The hospitality of the officers and senior leadership was truly memorable, and it is great to know that the Customs and Excise brotherhood is alive and well.”

CBP said the training, given to 19 Trinidadian law enforcement officers, lasted two weeks in September in the town of Chaguaramas, Trinidad, a mere eight-mile boat ride from Venezuela.

“After the full course, the Trinidad and Tobago Customs and Excise Marine Interdiction Unit had a full understanding of methods and tactics that will be applied to their ever-growing regional marine threat,” CBP said, stating that some tactics included vessel pursuit and interception, post-boarding procedures, arrests and firearms.”

Lucia Foglia, CBP International Officer, said the United States remains “a strong friend and partner to the government of Trinidad and Tobago”

“[We] share similar visions in the fight against smuggling illegal goods across our borders,” Foglia said. “This collaboration has helped us to successfully join operations and facilitation on trade.”

With about 1,800 US federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands, CBP said AMO serves as “the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.”

In Fiscal Year 2018, CBP said AMO enforcement actions resulted in the approximate seizure or disruption of 283,503 pounds of cocaine; 301,553 pounds of marijuana; 180,444 pounds of methamphetamine; 872 weapons and US$34.2 million.

CBP said AMO enforcement actions also facilitated 2,373 arrests and 47,744 apprehensions of illegal immigrants.

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